Wed | Aug 23, 2017

Stephen Hamilton - Sizzling with success

Published:Monday | February 29, 2016 | 2:00 AMJody-Anne Lawrence
Sharlene Rädlein and her sponsor Stephen Hamilton of Eskay Caterers during the Miss Universe Jamaica competition.
T.O.K.
Chef Stephen Hamilton
Chef Stephen Hamilton shows off his Eskay trademark tattoo.
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"I am not going to work to build someone else's dream. I work hard to build my own dream." These are the words of Chief Executive Officer of Eskay Catering Stephen Hamilton.

Over the years, Hamilton has made a name for himself in the food industry, though this was not something he had initially planned to do. In a recent interview with Flair Magazine, he revealed that he wanted to be a lawyer, but his love for food in third form got him into the kitchen.

While a student at Ardenne Extension High School, he was tired of waiting in line for something to eat. "I was 'craven' and would stand in line and quarrel about why they were taking so long. So one day, I tried to be an answer to the problem," he told Flair. He volunteered to assist in the canteen to help move things along so that persons could get served quickly.

He helped to cook for class trips when he was in fifth form and would prepare meals for some of the school's clubs. Soon, his dream of becoming a lawyer lost its flavour to the sizzle and spices of the kitchen.

After high school, Hamilton went on to the University of Technology, where he pursued a degree in hospitality and tourism management. While there, he made sure to keep his hands in the kitchen, with an appearance on the local television show Nyammings.

After his appearance, the culinary gates opened for him. Linstead Market saw the episode and offered him a catering job. He later worked at Grand Palladium as a restaurant manager trainee; at Altamont Court Hotel as a trainee food and beverage manager; and at Terra Nova Casino as a chef. But Hamilton would tell you that his road to success was not always a bed of roses.

During his final year of university, he took a job as a housekeeper. He liked hospitality, but the work was no joke. Changing beds and curtains and cleaning bathrooms were part of his daily routine. The money he made during his internship became the capital for his business, Eskay Catering, which was registered in 2012.

After eight months of nothing, Hamilton landed his first gig. "It was for the Great Britain rugby league. I had no warmer, no tablecloths, not even a proper outfit. I did not have any tablecloths, so I cut down some of my neighbours' palm leaves to use and she went to my mother about it."

If that wasn't bad enough, "there are times when you have money in the bank but you can't spend it because you are not sure about the next job," Hamilton shared. However, he managed to push through the rough times because of his passion and desire to be successful despite the obstacles.

One situation that stood out for Hamilton was when a client refused to pay him after an event. The client had made the 50 per cent down payment before the event, but when the three days after the due date had passed, he could not get in touch with the individual. He kept being told that the person was not at work or that the money was in payroll. One day after being told that the person had left, he sat outside waiting and realised that the person had been at work all along. They got into a very heated discussion, and after being paid, Hamilton cut ties with the organisation.

 

What's in a name?

 

Why the name Eskay? The 'E' is from a nickname Hamilton got while in Cuba - Esteb·n; 'S' represents the initial of his first name; 'K' is for Kingston, where he was born and raised; 'A' for Augustus, his middle name; and 'Y' for Youth as he only employs young persons in his company.

Eskay Catering has come a long way, and among his accomplishments is catering for Ian Boyne's book launch; being the first caterer to sponsor a Miss Universe Jamaica contestant (who won the competition); and being the private chef for recording artiste Ne-Yo.

"I thought that it was a prank when they called me to cater for Ne-Yo," he recalled to Flair.

"I used to prank people so much, I actually thought that they were getting back at me. It was not until I had the meeting and they were discussing it that I realised that it was real, that this was truly happening," he admitted.

The experience has surely been a blessing for Hamilton, one for which he is grateful.

He has never forgotten his past and gives back to his primary school, Hope Valley Experimental School. He recently went back to do some cooking presentations, teaching the children to prepare some easy dishes.

With the logo of his company proudly tattooed on his arm, Hamilton advises: "No matter what, follow your dreams. It will make you much happier."

jodi-anne.lawrence@gleanerjm.com